November 25, 2011

Woodlands Town to Bukit Panjang via Ulu Sembawang Park Connector

The Route
This route came about to satisfy two criteria viz. to walk along park connectors with their well paved tracks and secondly along forests for their shade, greenery and away from traffic. We achieved this by starting from Woodlands (Causeway Point) after a hearty lunch and proceeding southward along the Woodlands Park Connector (Ave 2) to the Ulu Sembawang Park Connector (PCN) to the Mandai PCN. Then we travelled along Track 15 (Central Catchment PCN) in Mandai to the Gangsa Bike Trail to Bukit Panjang. See the GPS track below.
Open field at Woodlands Park Connector

Woodlands Park Connector
Walking along the Park Connector from Woodlands to Ulu Sembawang was uneventful except for the hot weather as we started walking at about 12 noon. After walking southward along Ave 2, we passed the Singapore Sports School where our elite athletes train and have their education. The path eastward from the school was blissful and reminded us of the Von Trapp children singing in the Austrian Alps as the track bordered a huge expanse of wide open field on high ground making us feeling liberated. On a previous trip one of our fellow walkers found a lost kite and ran with it and I sang "the hills are filled with the sound of music, etc." Unfortunately he suffered a minor injury as a result but is okay now. Before embarking on this stretch, one got to be careful of thunderstorms as it is exposed.

Ulu Sembawang Park Connector
Near the junction of Ave 12 and the SLE we headed southward along the Ulu Sembawang PCN. This track took us through the forests of Mandai used by Mindef for training their troops. On the west was the Mandai forest with the forbidding "Protected Area" sign and on the east were the farms. The track was just opened several months ago - kudos to the Nparks for building it and allowing us access through the Mandai forest. At the end was Mandai Road and the Seletar Reservoir. We turned west towards the Singapore Zoo direction. We could see the outline of durian trees as we walked, but no fruits as it was out of season.

Central Catchment Park Connector
At the Mandai Lake Road which led to the Zoo, we followed a track called the Central Catchment PCN. This narrow track is within the forest of Mandai and is left unpaved as close to its natural condition. There were occasional fallen trees due to heavy rain and wind but we were able to continue our trek. This trail roughly parallel Track 15  leading to the Mandai Rifle Range. On certain days we could hear the sound of gunfire. As we proceeded along, we could spot the silhouette of durian trees. This was dutifully recorded as a POI on our GPS track for a visit when the fruit is in season. The Central Reserve PCN had been realigned to join up with the Gangsa Bike Trail to which we emerged when we came to the end of the park connector.
Gangsa Bike Trail

Gangsa Bike Trail
We did a side trip to the PUB pumping station to clock up the mileage we wanted to achieve. The bike trail was easy going although we were accompanied by mosquitos but thanks to our buddies for whom they had more affection, the rest of us were spared the ordeal. Towards the end of our trek we arrived at the abandoned garden beside the BKE under which we walked toward Bukit Panjang Kim San Leng coffee-shop for a short rest before heading home.

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